Does Indigenous Ownership in Resource Projects Change Everything?

Does Indigenous Ownership in Natural Resource Projects Change Everything cover

The Indigenous Resource Network recently launched its “Ownership Changes Everything” campaign to advocate for Indigenous ownership in the natural resources sector.

Many people ask why Indigenous Peoples don’t have a loan program in place for their communities, and how would First Nations be able to attain such a program?

Having such a program in place would benefit not only Indigenous Peoples, but also Canadians across the country.

Indian Act & Indigenous Communities

Canada needs an Indigenous guaranteed loan program, as finding capital for development is challenging for many Indigenous communities.

For most Canadians, owning your home is seen as an asset or capital you can use towards lending more money to start a business. The Indian Act doesn’t permit Indigenous People in their communities to use their homes as capital.

Many Indigenous communities have no opportunity for employment and job creation is limited, so reliance on government assistance is prevalent. But economic development is possible, and along with it, economic reconciliation.

The Campaign and Solutions

Established in May 2020, the Indigenous Resource Network provides a platform for First Nations workers, business owners and leaders who support development in the resource sector.

The campaign offers solutions, such as:

> Implementation of an Indigenous Infrastructure Bank to help kickstart access to capital

> Calls for a national Indigenous guaranteed loan program.

Recognizing the need for government involvement to help First Nations get the capital needed to become partners and owners of projects on our lands is critical.

According to the IRN, this national guaranteed loan program should be governed by the following principles:

> Guaranteed loans and competitive rates for Indigenous communities.

> Support Indigenous people to have a seat at the table with decision-making power. 

> No discrimination based on the resource type of projects.

> Focus on end goals and values.

A majority of Indigenous peoples in Canada support natural resource development

Ownership Changes Everything

Have you heard the saying, “when you own it, you take better care of it?” Some Indigenous communities have been in partnerships with the oil and gas sector since the 1950s, but others are less fortunate.

Canada is abundant in natural resources; therefore, many Indigenous communities sit right on top of vast economic potential. The Indian Act, in many ways, has prevented Indigenous communities from developing their resource reserves while keeping them in poverty and reliant on the government.

Fortunately, Indigenous communities are becoming more active in developing the natural resources on their lands. And through ownership of resource projects, Indigenous people can improve the quality of life for their families and communities.

In the United States, many institutions are willing to provide start-up loans for Indigenous businesses. However, Canada only has a few such programs in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario.

A national loan guarantee program would assist Indigenous People in shifting the barriers and provide economic stability for their communities over the long term. Employment creates a level of independence, but ownership brings about many more benefits for First Nations. Education, healthcare, clean water, housing and environmental caretaking are some of the benefits of ownership in resource projects.

So yes, ownership does change everything. It creates opportunities for economic reconciliation, control over the development of natural resources on our land, and a healthier future for our children.

Ownership in resource projects is our chance to change the narrative and strengthens the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people across Canada.

More from Estella Petersen:

About the Author

Why Indigenous Ownership of Pipelines in Canada is a Good Thing

Estella Petersen is a heavy machinery operator in the oil sands out of Fort McMurray. Estella is from the Cowessess Reserve and is passionate about Canada and supporting Canadian natural resources.

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